Monday, August 26, 2013

Quixotic

As with every election I can remember, policy in Australia is equated with budgets. Australian electioneering seems to have to settings: slogans and balance sheets. Slogans by their nature speak for themselves and detailed costings are overwhelming to most voters (voters are also sometimes known as 'people' in case you're wondering). I have a sneaking suspicion this is because Australian politicians for the most part have the same natural talent for rhetoric as a howler monkey with severe social anxiety. They can be just about trusted to rote learn a sound bite, but long form oratory exceeds their capacity.

So once everybody has shouted "stop the boats" and "trust us" a few times, there's an awkward pause until somebody remembers to start shouting about costings. Apparently what the average Australian really wants, what school teachers around the nation have known, is to be presented with voluminous amounts of arithmetic. Not that this isn't important, mind you, just that it's unlikely most voters will brush up on their forensic accountancy skills before choosing who to vote for. Those are the choices though, three words or five hundred pages.

Policies are more complex (costings are complicated, but in the end they're just addition and subtraction); they require the politician responsible to be able to clearly explain a concept and, most inconveniently, the practical and ethical motivation behind it. On top of this a television news service needs to be willing to broadcast a single person talking for as long a several continuous minutes. Given these limitations I guess it is hardly surprising that what we get is slogns and budgets. As you may be able to tell I sometimes get wistful for a world in which the various parties would explain their social and economic foundations and I could leave it to the clever chaps in the treasury to sort out the numbers.

Then Clive Palmer joined in.

If you don't know Clive Palmer, he's the guy who's building a replica Titanic. A real full scale working replica. He's the guy who's putting scores of animatronic dinosaurs in one of his resorts to create a robotic Jurassic Park. Also, he's the guy who decided to start a political party named after himself (a feat matched of course by Bob Katter).

Clive wants my vote not because his ideas are better than those of his opponents, but because his opponents are "boring". He's not afraid to play Eye Of The Tiger as his entrance music, he's going to cut taxes, increase spending across the board, somehow end up with more money, and his solution to the "problem" of boat people is to buy them a plane ticket (honestly, that last one is kind of awesome). Clive is a National Living Treasure. Really.

Clive knows what Australia needs, at least he knows what the Australia he sees through his unique lense needs. It needs Clive. Watching Clive tilt not only at windmills, but at basically anything larger than a shoebox that crosses his path has almost been enough to change my mind. Maybe I don't want idealism and grand ideas, maybe I do just want a neat little accountant to mind the books.

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